In a desperate effort to save his job and avoid being fired from the Chicago Bears, Marc Trestman is benching Jay Cutler in favor of Jimmy Clausen, hoping that this quarterback switch will somehow show the decision makers that the ending to this season isn’t going to be a complete disaster.
Clausen hasn’t started an NFL game since 2010, playing for the Carolina Panthers. The team finished with a 1-9 record in his starts, as Clausen completed 52.5% of his passes, throwing only three touchdown passes and nine interceptions. Since then, he hasn’t played a single game for the Panthers, waiting behind Cam Newton. This season for the Bears he has played three times, all in blowout losses without having the chance to actually make a difference. With the two remaining division games against the Lions and the Vikings, he’s getting a chance to show that he’s learned a lot since his previous start, four years ago.
Cutler is the highest paid player in the NFL this season at $22.5 million following the Bears giving him a seven-year contract last season. He threw three interceptions (and two garbage time touchdowns) in the 15-31 home loss to the Saints in his last game as the Bears fell to 5-9, losing for a third consecutive time. He has thrown a league high 18 interceptions and has 24 turnovers. He’s actually completing passes at a higher ratio than ever before (66.1%) and his passer rating of 89.5 is also the highest of his career, but as Trestman said to the press (before word of Cutler being benched got out), it’s not just about him. He has a total QBR of 55, much lower than last season’s 66.4, and averages 35.7 snaps per turnover, much lower than the league average of 61.1.
I think that’s evident I haven’t been able to get the best out of Jay up to this point. Am I working at it? Yes. We’ve seen moments, but we haven’t done it on a consistent basis. I can’t hide from that. We haven’t been able to do the things that we want to get done. We’re working towards that. But the answer to that is obvious. I’m trying to give you the most truthful answer, and that is, we’ve seen moments of it, but it’s not where we need to go. It’s not where we need to be. But it’s not all about Jay. It’s about our entire offense, working together to get it done.
Trestman was brought in from the CFL not just to take the Bears into the playoffs, but also improve Cutler from a talented but mistake prone quarterback into realizing the potential most see in him. However, despite a promising start in 2013, things unraveled and carried on, worsening this season. The risk taking is still there, and maybe above everything else, turning to Clausen means going with a much more “safe” route, whatever good it will do this late in the season.
It’s too soon to say what this means for Cutler and his future with the Bears. It’s impossible to trade him, but his contract isn’t guaranteed past the 2015 season, which means the Bears are already thinking about cutting their losses in 13 months from now. A good performance from Clausen in the next two games might mean a big battle for the starting quarterback position next spring and summer, even though it’s hard to believe a player making $15.5 million in 2015 is going to get benched.
Trestman is doing this to save his job and show the offense isn’t a failure because of him, but because of his starting quarterback. It’s as simple as that, and when the goal is to win games, not to mention saving your own skin, it doesn’t hurt throwing people under the bus. According to reports from inside the Bears locker room, there’s genuine disbelief that Cutler is benched while Aaron Kromer, the offensive coordinator, made some dissing comments on the quarterback, doesn’t get scolded. It just goes to show that aside from Trestman, the Bears have lost faith in Cutler ever leading them to a better future, with the team missing the postseason in seven of the last eight seasons.